Searching for his lost love, Ivan finds himself in a mysterious and ominous place. A flock of firebirds descend. Ivan hides and watches the mythical creatures in their nightly ritual. He starts to chase one and captures her as the rest scatter in fear. The captive Firebird struggles to free herself and finally breaks away, leaving him with a magical feather which will summon her in times of danger.
A group of maidens suddenly appears. Ivan wonders if his love is among them but cannot be sure as they are transformed under a spell. He reveals himself to the maidens who seem to resent his intrusion. Slowly, they accept his presence. He is drawn to one particular Maiden, and she too seems taken with him. They come together but are interrupted by the arrival of Kaschei, the evil sorcerer who controls the maidens with his magical power. As the group greets their master with blind adoration, the Maiden attempts to hide Ivan but is unsuccessful. Angered by Ivan's presence, Kaschei exerts his power and initiates a deadly game. Ivan uses the feather to summon the Firebird to his rescue.
The Firebird arrives and begins an infectious dance, compelling everyone to participate until they collapse from exhaustion. She lulls the maidens to sleep, and she and Kaschei struggle over the fates of Ivan and the Maiden. In a trance, the Maiden is unable to recognize Ivan as her true love and allows herself to be seduced by Kaschei. Ivan feels lost and betrayed, but the Firebird shows him a way to break the spell. He shatters an egg containing Kaschei's soul and power, killing him. Kaschei's kingdom disintegrates, and the maidens awake from his spell as victims of his past curses are liberated, free to reunite with their lost loves.
The Firebird, under the title L’Oiseau de Feu, with choreography by Mikhail Fokine and scenery and costumes by Alexander Golovine and Leon Bakst, was given its world premiere by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes at the Theatre National de l’Opera in Paris on June 25, 1910, danced by Tamara Kasrsavina (The Firebird), Michel Fokine (Ivan Tsarevich), Enrico Cecchetti (The Immortal Kostchei), and Vera Fokina (The Beautiful Tsarevna). The Firebird received its United States premiere by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes at the Century Theatre, New York on January 17, 1916, danced by Xenia Maclezova (The Firebird), Leonide Massine (Ivan Tsarevich), Enrico Cecchtti (The Immortal Kostchei) and Lubov Tchernicheva (The Beautiful Tsarevna).
The Firebird, with choreography by Adolph Bolm and scenery
and costumes by Marc Chagall, first entered the repertory of American
Ballet Theatre on October 24, 1945 at the Metropolitan Opera House,
New York, danced by Alicia Markova (The Firebird), Anton Dolin (Ivan
A revival of The Firebird, with choreography after Michel Fokine and produced by Nicholas Beriozoff, was given its first performance on January 24, 1992, at the Palacio des Bellas Artes, Mexico City, danced by Cheryl Yeager (The Firebird), Victor Barbee (Ivan Tsarevich), Julie Kent (The Beautiful Tsarevna) and Michael Owen (The Immortal Kostchei).
This new production of Firebird was given its World Premiere at the Segestrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa, California on March 29, 2012, danced by Natalia Osipova (Firebird), Marcelo Gomes (Ivan), David Hallberg (Kaschei) and Simore Messmer (The Maiden). The World Premiere of Firebird was co-commissioned by American Ballet Theatre and Dutch National Ballet.